How is heritage significance assessed?
Heritage professionals have developed ways of formally assessing the significance of natural and cultural heritage places. The following documents. listed in the Resources section of the guide, may provide some assistance:
Natural Heritage Places - A handbook for conservation: Implementing the Australian Natural Heritage Charter for conservation of places of natural significance, 1998, Lorraine Cairnes, Australian Heritage Commission in association with the Australian Committee for IUCN.
Draft Guidelines for the Protection, Management and
Use of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cultural
Heritage Places, 1997, Department of
Communications and the Arts.
‘Guidelines to the Burra Charter’ (cultural heritage significance) in The Illustrated Burra Charter: Making good decisions about the care of important places, 1992, prepared by Australia ICOMOS. Unit 3
The general steps involved in a heritage significance assessment are outlined in these documents and described briefly below.
Step 1 Describe the place
Compile the information that you have gathered and organise it according to individual places. If assessing a very large area or a place with a number of different types of values, you may need to look at elements such as natural, indigenous or historic features separately, and then bring them together at the end to tell the story of the place.
Step 2 Consider the significance of the place
There are many perspectives and views in considering the significant values of a place. For instance, some indigenous communities may wish to define the significance of a place very broadly. Methodologies for assessing significant values constitute a rapidly evolving set of ideas. The following categories and questions are a guide to considering significance.
Why is this place important?
The following definitions of social, aesthetic, historic and scientific values are from the Australia ICOMOS Charter for the Conservation of Places of Cultural Significance (the Burra Charter) (1992) and the Draft Guidelines for the protection and management and use of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural heritage places (1998). The definitions of biological diversity, ecosystems and geological values are from the Australian Natural Heritage (7harter Standards and principles for the conservation of places of natural heritage significance (1996).
Social value to the community embraces the qualities for which a place is a focus of spiritual, traditional, economic, political, national or other cultural sentiment to the majority or minority group.
Is the place important to the community as a landmark or local signature? In what
ways, and to what extent? Is the place important as part of community identity? In what ways, and to what
extent? Is the place important to the community because an attachment to it has developed
from long use? What is the length and strength of that attachment? Which community values the place?
What is the relative importance of the place to the group or community (compared
to other places important to it)? Is the place associated with a particular person or group important in your
community’s history? What is the importance of the association between this
place and that person or group? Is the place valued by a community for reasons of religious, spiritual, cultural,
educational or social associations? In what ways, and to what extent?
Aesthetic value to the community includes aspects of sensory perception (sight, touch, sound, taste, smell) for which criteria can be stated. These criteria may include consideration of form, scale, colour, texture and material of the fabric or landscape, and the smell and sounds associated with the place and its use.
Does the place have natural or cultural features which are inspirational or evoke
strong feelings or special meanings? What are those...
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